by Tim Ryder, President, Ryder Sales Agency, Inc.
As a manufacturers’ representative we are reminded that it is a multi‑faceted livelihood; a business extending into other fields including sales, marketing, management, engineering, economics, technology, healthcare, human resources, law, finance, accounting, networking and more.
Most manufacturers’ representatives arrived in business having excelled in one or more of these fields. They have quickly learned, however, that there is a need to excel to some extent in all of these fields — because they all come into play in the running of their business. Our profession requires that we become “Masters” in the selling process. Our business requires that we become very good at addressing these other fields.
To accomplish this, we must stay in a perpetual state of training and continuous improvement — continually honing skills and sharpening awareness. However, it is easy to get so caught up in the business that before we know it a year has gone by and we have not spent any significant time training. Sure, we’ve received “on-the-job training,” and those types of experiences cannot be short-changed or traded; however, they don’t lend themselves to the long-term benefits of scheduled training.
Training is not just exercising. Exercising your body has all sorts of benefits, but, to only exercise has limitations when it comes to gaining improved skills. Likewise, staying busy and involved in the day-to-day demands of our business will keep us in decent fighting shape but won’t compensate for the necessity to incorporate fine tuning of skills.
Education and networking are key components to acquiring these skills, and there are a number of options available.
Most of us have a network of professionals in the various fields listed above. Scheduling time with these contacts can educate and update you with pertinent and valuable information. And, many of their companies (or companies they deal with) offer seminars, newsletters, forums, etc., providing additional access to needed information.
The computer and technology offer incredible access to information — some excellent, some not quite so. MANA consolidates and provides many beneficial training resources, so you don’t have to wade through the barrage of offerings in the marketplace. MANA continues to provide quality training opportunities through their updated website, iToolbox e-newsletter, videos, teleforums, seminars, contract guidelines, legislative updates, and upcoming training events. Members can even read the Agency Sales magazine online. And, don’t forget — MANA offers both business and legal counseling as well.
For start-ups or newer agencies, access to MANA’s professional development resources can make the difference between success and failure.
Over the years I have found networking with other representatives a key training exercise. In Wisconsin, we are fortunate to have a local trade association — WAMA (Wisconsin Association of Manufacturers’ Agents). On about a monthly basis, we gather for a meeting that includes a featured speaker, generally from one of the fields listed previously.
As with training drills for sports, it is helpful to have a group of like-minded devotees to train alongside. The camaraderie, knowledge and experience sitting around a table can be refreshing and enlightening. MANA makes a strong effort to connect agents. In addition, MANA is in communication with other representative associations (i.e., WAMA, ERA, PTRA, AIMR, etc.) that schedule meetings and advises local members when these meetings take place. Plus, the professional development resources MANA offers through seminars, teleforums and videos are a great way to connect with other associations and representatives.
All that said — training is a crucial investment strategy for your career, your business and your livelihood.
Tim Ryder is president of Ryder Sales Agency, Inc., located in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Ryder Sales specializes in supplying OEMs and distributors with components and raw materials used in manufacturing industrial and consumer products. For more information, visit www.RyderSales.com. Ryder is a past MANA Board of Directors member and has served as past president and board member for WAMA (Wisconsin Association of Manufacturers’ Agents).